literature, realism is an approach that attempts to describe life without
idealization or romantic subjectivity. It
is most often associated with the movement in France and the writers Honore de
Balzac and Gustave Flaubert. George
Eliot introduced realism into
and William Dean
Howells in to the
A reaction against, and a natural development
of, Romanticism, Realism was a transcontinental movement that shifted the
focus of literature away from the exotic and adventurous toward the everyday
lives of the common people. "Common" here means primarily the middle and
lower upper classes. Clerks, civil servants, their families, and their
love lives become a common topic of literary works.
is chiefly concerned with the commonplaces of everyday life among the middle and
lower classes, where character is a product of social factors and environment is
the integral element in the dramatic complications.
Realists believed that humanity’s freedom of choice was limited by the
power of outside forces.
industrial revolution called for standardization, mass production of goods and
streamlined channels of distribution. People
feared that local folkways and traditions would be forgotten.
Responding to these sentiments, Realistic writers set their stories in
specific regions, rushing to capture the local color before it was lost.
They drew upon the grim realities of everyday life, showing the breakdown
of traditional values and the growing plight of the urban poor.
Character is more important than action and plot; complex ethical choices are
often the subject.
Characters appear in the real complexity of temperament and motive; they are in explicable relation to nature, to each
other, to their social class, to their own past.
Humans control their destinies; characters act on the environment rather than
simply reacting to it.
Renders reality closely and in comprehensive detail.
Selective presentation of reality with an emphasis on
verisimilitude, even at the expense of a well-made plot.
Events will usually be plausible. Realistic
novels avoid the sensational, dramatic elements of novels.
Class is important; the novel has traditionally served the interests and aspirations of an insurgent middle class.
Interpretation and Analysis
Realism is viewed as a realization of democracy.
The morality of Realism is intrinsic; integral, relativistic – relations between people and society are explored.
Realists were pragmatic, relativistic, democratic and experimental.
The purpose of writing is to instruct and
is the natural vernacular, not heightened or poetic; tone may be comic, satiric, or matter-of-fact.
The use of symbolism is controlled and limited; the realists depend more on the
use of images.
Objectivity in presentation becomes increasingly important; overt authorial
comments or intrusions diminish as